‘Who says a mathematician can’t be creative?’ ArtAttack interviews ‘Metamorphosis’ co-curators Olivia Bladen & Alice Procter

Last year, for their annual exhibition, the UCL Art Society, put on a fantastic show entitled ‘Escape,’ which left ArtAttack impressed and inspired. So with this year’s show, ‘Metamorphosis,’ just a few days away, we jumped on the opportunity to interview exhibition director’s Olivia Bladen (ArtAttack’s own!) and Alice Procter to gain some insight into the curatorial process and what we can expect from this exciting emerging art exhibition.

ArtAttack: So ‘Metamorphosis’ is the theme for this year’s show. Can you tell me how this idea came about and what it means to you?

Alice Procter: As strange as it sounds… We were eating gnocchi in a park last summer, throwing words at each other in the hope that something would stick. I don’t remember who said Metamorphosis first, but it just made so much sense. We wanted something open, that anyone could look at and say, ‘okay, how can I relate this to my work?’, because every artist is always making a change or transforming something. It felt like a way of encouraging our members to step back and look at the process behind their work.

Olivia Bladen: We went through a long list of words it could be! Previous exhibitions had names such as Alchemy and Escape, and we wanted to keep the theme true to those vibes; something that was open enough to be accessible to anyone, but would still provide direction. As the curators, it helps to have a unifying aspect, obviously. But as Alice said, the process of change is inherently an artistic one, so none of the submissions felt really out of place.

AA: What was the selection process like this year? How many submissions did you receive and how many artists and art schools are represented in the final show?

AP: All our submissions come from members of the UCL Art Society

OB: It varies every year, but normally there are actually only one or two submissions from Slade students. I think it’s great that people don’t feel like they need to be studying Fine Art to exhibit their work. The artists come from all different backgrounds, including STEM subjects – who says a mathematician can’t be creative? We have around twenty artists in the show, and if we had the space it would be more!

AA: What are a few standout works we should look out for at the exhibition?

AP: Oh, no, we have such a huge variety it’s too hard to choose… My favourites are probably the site specific works: Ben and Maxim’s installation is fantastic, playing on the Crypt’s history and its contemporary echoes.

OB: I agree with Alice, it’s more about how all the art works together for me! That being said, I am a fan of the works that can be linked to Ovid’s Metamorphosis – Anjum’s pomegranate sculpture alludes to the Persephone myth, and Patrick’s painting of Clytie is a direct reference to the story of Apollo’s lover.

AA: Will any of the art be for sale?

AP: We can’t sell works directly, but we can facilitate sales! So if something catches your eye we’ll link you up with the artist

AA: I remember last year you had very limited time to set up at the gallery. How long do you have to set up the exhibition this year and how much pre-planning goes into the layout vs. figuring it out on the spot?

AP:  We are last minute girls. We do have longer this year (a day and a half, rather than six hours), but it’s still a quick turnaround. I don’t know how Olivia feels but I prefer that – every piece ends up in a place that feels right, you can’t overthink it because you don’t have time. Especially working in a space as unusual as the Crypt, it’s difficult to plan a layout ahead of time, so going in without any set expectations is much easier. It’ll happen.

OB: I think putting on an exhibition is similar to doing theatre or any kind of live performance. You can plan as long as you want, but everything always comes together in the last few hours! Of course, we had a few months to sort out the logistics, but the actual curation itself is very trial and error, because we only know how everything will work once we are physically in the space with the art. It’s much more exciting that way, and it feels more organic.

AA: What do you feel is the mission of UCL Art Society?

AP: Having an open call show like this is so important to us because we aim to provide a relaxed and loving atmosphere for anyone who’s into art to make or enjoy it. We are a welcoming bunch.

OB: In the film Ratatoutille (and please hear me out!)  there is a quote that not everyone can be a chef, but a chef can come from anywhere. Cheesy, I know, but the same applies to art for me. I hate hearing people say they ‘can’t‘ make art – it’s so subjective! As long as you enjoy it, why can’t you?

AA: Clearly working on this show is fantastic real-world experience. Is curating something you are interested in pursuing as a career post uni?

AP: Definitely – there are a few other projects that’ll hopefully come together in the next year or so…

OB: I’m still figuring that one out. At the moment I’m more interest in the public programmes side of galleries and museums, as getting involved with communities is what I really love, but curation can be part of that! I’m not going to pin myself down to any one thing for now, anyway.

– India Irving

UCL Art Society’s ‘Metamorphosis‘ opens at The Crypt Gallery (St Pancras) on 7th March and will be on view until 11th March; Private View: 7th March at  6PM-9PM; St Pancras Paris Church, Euston Road, NW1 2BA

To purchase advanced tickets, click here.

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